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City backs off on church restrictions

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Journal Staff

Sarnia council does not want to get entangled in another court battle with the city’s churches.

City Hall’s planning department last week recommended councillors approve changes to a zoning bylaw to provide “clarity” on church-operated soup kitchens and food banks.

Those changes would have regulated such things as the number of parking spaces and guest rooms a church can have, as well as the size and floor space of rooms used to store food or feed the poor.

But councillors showed no interest in triggering a potential court challenge like that involving the River City homeless shelter and voted to table the recommendations.

“Why should we be determining the gross area of a church?” Mayor Mike Bradley asked outside council chambers.

The current bylaw, passed four years ago, prohibits food banks and soup kitchens at all but a few churches. That rankles the 16-member Sarnia Evangelical Fellowship, which wants the legal authority to provide such services at its places of worship.

Council agreed to consider at a future date reverting to an earlier bylaw that didn’t define accessory uses of a church.





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